While presenting the keynote paper at the roundtable professor Rakha Hari Sarker of Department of Botany at Dhaka University said the amount of arable land in the country has been decreasing by 1-2 per cent every year. But amid this, Bangladesh is third in rice production, seventh in potatoes, sixth in seasonal fruits, second in jute, and third in production of freshwater fish. This success is possible due to developed agricultural technology.

Food production should be paced with the increasing population, he added. “For this crops and fruits varieties invented using biotechnology need to be cultivated in the country.”

Speaking at the roundtable, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) director general Shahjahan Kabir said a zinc-rich variety of rice has been invented in the country for increasing nutrition of rice. If golden rice and other crop breeds invented through biotechnology are given permission fast, this could play a role in facing the food and nutrition safety challenges in the coming days.

Department of Agricultural Extension director general Benojir Alam said locally produced rice is meeting the local demands. Currently around 20 million tonnes of vegetables are being produced in the country, which has been meeting a large part of the domestic demand. But to ensure the required amount of nutrition we need to intake 200 grams vegetables every day. We need to produce more vegetables to ensure this.

Farming Future Bangladesh executive director Md Arif Hossain said once India used to import cotton. The country started exporting cotton just within a few years of giving approval to cultivate the biotechnologically modified variety. Farming of BT eggplant is gaining popularity in our country. Use of pesticide is declining in this. In this context, if golden rice and other biotechnologically modified varieties of crops are given approval it would play an important role in facing future challenges in the agriculture sector.

Professor Nazma Shaheen of Institute of Nutrition and Food Science at Dhaka University said though people in the country have been getting sufficient food, around 30-40 per cent people are not getting enough nutrition from that food. That’s why nutritious foods need to make easily available to the poor people by boosting their production. At the same time this also needs to be taken into account whether the use of biotechnologically modified food has been harming the nature and people’s health. Research facilities at the universities and government and private firms need to be increased for this. Technologically developed labs need to be set up.

Professor Abu Noman Faruq of plant pathology department at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University said, “We need to decide first the type of technology based on crop type for augmenting the production. And, Bangladesh’s position as middle income country would not be sustainable if production is not enhanced.”

US-based Alliance for Science’s policy and regulatory affairs department assistant director Gregory Jaffe said science-oriented decision has to be taken for increasing the agricultural production.

Mentioning that biotechnology will play an important role in ensuring global food safety in the coming day, he asked Bangladesh to use the technology more.

Chief scientist at ACI’s molecular genetics department ASM Nahian said, “We need to increase the use of those technologies which could ensure better price in the market. Because, at the end of the day, consumers buy and sell their products in markets.”

Prothom Alo’s associate editor Abdul Qayyum gave the welcome address and assistant editor Firoz Chowdhury gave thanks to the guests.

Bangladesh country director of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture Farhad Zamil, FAO adviser Abdul Quader, BRRI’s chief scientific officer Abdul Quader, Bangladesh Institute of Research and Training on Applied Nutrition (BIRTAN) senior scientific officer Tasnima Mahjabin and Prothom Alo’s special correspondent Iftekhar Mahmood were among other present in the roundtable.